Admissions - Ph.D. in Literature

The 2023-2024 Graduate Admissions Application is Open!
The deadline to apply is January 5, 2023

Graduate Studies only offers application fee waivers to applicants who have participated in specific graduate preparation programs.  Applicants who are affiliated with these programs must indicate their participation AND must provide the name and contact information for their program coordinator in the relevant section of the online application system to receive a fee waiver. 

UC Davis also requires that applicants to all graduate programs submit both a Statement of Purpose and a Personal History and Diversity Statement.  Each essay can be no longer than 4,000 characters including spaces.  Applications will be assessed based on research experience (and research potential), quality of writing in the essays and sample, academic preparation for the program, and other experiences addressed in the Personal History and Diversity Statement.

In 2023, we are temporarily pausing admissions in early modern (c. 1500-1660).  We are considering applications in all other fields.

While our current graduate students in English have the option of completing an MA in Literature, this is not a stand-alone program.

For more information about your application status, please check online or contact the graduate program staff.  The UC Davis Graduate Studies Application Components page covers most general admissions questions, but feel free to contact us for more details.

Application Requirements
Only these things are required and will be accepted, and the GRE is not required

  • Writing sample

  • Admission Essays:
    - Personal history statement

    - Statement of purpose

  • Personal History & Diversity Statement

  • Three letters of recommendation  (Must be Submitted Electronically via the Applicant Portal)

  • TOEFL or IELTS scores, if applicable

  • Copies of transcripts

  • Application Fee:  $135 for U.S. and $155 for international applicants

Statement of Purpose

Please highlight your academic preparation and motivation; interests, specializations, and career goals; and fit for pursuing graduate study at UC Davis.

Preparation and Motivation: may include your academic and research experiences that prepare you for this graduate program (for example coursework, employment, exhibitions, fieldwork, foreign language proficiency, independent study, internships, laboratory activities, presentations, publications, studio projects, teaching, and travel or study abroad) and motivation or passion for graduate study.

Interests, Specializations, and Career Goals: may include your research interests, disciplinary subfields, area/s of specialization, and professional objectives.

Fit: may include how your preparation, experiences, and interests match the specific resources and characteristics of your graduate program at UC Davis.  Please identify specific faculty within your desired graduate program with whom you would like to work, how their interests match your own, and how you would benefit from engaging with their research.

Personal History and Diversity Statement

The University of California Davis, a public institution, is committed to supporting the diversity of the graduate student body and promoting equal opportunity in higher education.  This commitment furthers the educational mission to serve the increasingly diverse population and educational needs of California and the nation. Both the Vice Provost of Graduate Education/Dean of Graduate Studies and the University of California affirm that diversity is critical to promoting lively intellectual exchange and the variety of ideas and perspectives essential to advancing higher education and research.  Our graduate students contribute to the global pool of future scholars and academic leaders, thus high value is placed on achieving a diverse graduate student body to support the University of California’s academic excellence.  We invite you to include in this statement how you may contribute to the diversification of graduate education and the UC Davis community.

The purpose of this essay is to get to know you as an individual and a potential graduate student.  Please describe how your personal background informs your decision to pursue a graduate degree.  You may include any educational, familial, cultural, economic, or social experiences, challenges, community service, outreach activities, residency and citizenship, first-generation college status, or opportunities relevant to your academic journey; how your life experiences contribute to the social, intellectual, or cultural diversity within a campus community and your chosen field; or how you might serve educationally underrepresented and underserved segments of society with your graduate education.


Three Letters of Recommendation

  • From professors or other persons situated to speak about your potential for graduate study.  In general, letters from professors or instructors involved in post-secondary academic studies who can speak to your research and/or the potential for your research profile, as well as any other aspect of your academic profile (e.g., any experience teaching, tutoring, or mentoring others) are preferred.  These persons may also address your extra-curricular and personal histories as applicable.


  • Copies are allowed - if admitted, you’ll be required to send official transcripts

  • UC Davis requires academic records from each college-level institution you have attended - instructions can be found here

Writing Sample

  • One-two research or term papers written for English courses; the total should not exceed 30 pages excluding images and bibliography

    --If your research or term paper(s) are not recent (e.g., written in the past 2-3 years or so), it is advisable that you revise the papers to include more current research/sources on your topic. 

    --Be sure that you closely proofread any research or term paper(s) you submit in order to present your best work possible.

Prospective students may also submit a Fellowship Application after applying to the program. 


All Applicants: Please review the UC Davis Graduate Studies Admissions & Application page in addition to the program requirements listed above.

International Applicants: Please review the following application information from the UC Davis Office of Graduate Studies. 

For the Fall 2022 cohort, we received 137 applications, admitted 24, and 12 matriculated.  The previous year, 183 applications were submitted of which 34 were admitted, and 11 matriculated.

Funding Your Ph.D.

All students admitted to the Ph.D. program are provided guaranteed funding for 5 years in the form of Teaching Assistant and Associate Instructor positions.  These appointments provide a partial tuition waiver which covers the Resident Regular Tuition cost & Health Insurance in and provides a monthly salary.  A limited amount of Graduate Student Researcher positions are available each year where students assist faculty with various projects.

Departmental funds are also available, such as the Miller Travel Fund, for students to attend conferences, interviews and conduct research.  Additional progress-based and summer language and travel fellowship stipends are awarded with funding allocated to us by Graduate Studies.

The UC Davis Humanities Institute offers fellowships students can apply for to fund their projects.  Admitted students are also considered for University-wide fellowships.


Ph.D. Program Requirements
Designated Emphases We Offer

Questions? Contact Us

Aaron Barstow
Department of English
Ph.D. Program in Literature
(530) 752-2738
Pronouns: he/him/his

Amy McFarland
Department of English
MFA Program in Creative Writing
(530) 752-2281